Employers typically think of retaliation in terms of the big employment statutes: Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, the FMLA, and the FLSA. Yet, there exist dozens of federal statutes that protect employees from retaliation in a variety of federally regulated industries.
Indeed, just yesterday, Cleveland.com reported that Abdul-Malik Ali, the former head of airfield maintenance at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, filed a complaint with the Department of Labor against Hopkins and the City of Cleveland, alleging they unfairly demoted him for blowing the whistle on Hopkins for having fewer than the required number of workers on runways last winter.
Ali says that on Feb. 19, the day after he told FAA inspector Michael Stephens about understaffing, he was removed from his 15-year post as manager of field maintenance by Airport Director Ricky Smith.
Ali said he was transferred to the job of “assistant to the deputy commissioner,” instructed to clear out his office, moved to what he called a “mop closet” behind the cab booking stand on the terminal baggage level at Hopkins and given “make-work” assignments such as counting trashcans.
If true, I’d say the airport has issues. It also makes me feel less that good about flights we took last winter.
Employers that operate in a federally regulated industry need to be aware of the alphabet-soup of statutes that could give rise to a potential retaliation or whistleblowing claim. Thankfully, the Department of Labor provides a list, handily collated at (where else?) http://www.whistleblowers.gov/:
- Affordable Care Act: Protects employees who report violations of any provision of title I of the ACA, including but not limited to discrimination based on an individual's receipt of health insurance subsidies, the denial of coverage based on a preexisting condition, or an insurer's failure to rebate a portion of an excess premium
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act: Protects employees who report violations of the law relating to asbestos in public or private non-profit elementary and secondary school systems
- Clean Air Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations regarding air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources
- Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to cleanup of hazardous waste sites, as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants
- Consumer Financial Protection Act: Employees are protected for blowing the whistle on reasonably perceived violations of any provision of the Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act or any other provision of law that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial, Protection, or any rule, order, standard, or prohibition prescribed by the Bureau
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act: Protects employees of of consumer product manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and private labelers who report to their employer, the federal government, or a state attorney general reasonably perceived violations of any statute or regulation within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Safety Product Safety Commission
- Energy Reorganization Act of 1974: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations or refuses to engage in violations of the ERA or the Atomic Energy Act. Protected employees include employees of operators, contractors and subcontractors of nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and employees of contractors working with the Department of Energy under a contract pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act
- FDA Food Safety Modernization Act: Protects employees of food manufacturers, distributors, packers, and transporters from reporting a violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or a regulation promulgated under the Act, and employees who refuse to participate in a practice that violates the Act
- Federal Railroad Safety Act: Protects employees of railroad carriers and their contractors and subcontractors who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or the abuse of public funds appropriated for railroad safety, in addition to employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to discharge of pollutants into water
- International Safe Container Act: Protects employees involved in international shipping who report to the Coast Guard the existence of an unsafe intermodal cargo container or another violation of the Act
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act: Prohibits retaliation by motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships against employees for providing information to the employer or the U.S. Department of Transportation about motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of the notification or reporting requirements enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or for engaging in related protected activities
- National Transit Systems Security Act: Protects transit employees who report a hazardous safety or security condition, a violation of any federal law relating to public transportation agency safety, or the abuse of federal grants or other public funds appropriated for public transportation, and also protects public transit employees who refuse to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition or refuse to violate a federal law related to public transportation safety
- Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970: Protects employees who exercise a variety of rights guaranteed under the Act, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, participating in an inspection, etc.
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act: Protects employees who report violations of federal laws related to pipeline safety and security or who refuse to violate such laws
- Safe Drinking Water Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to any waters actually or potentially designated for drinking
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002: Protects employees of certain companies who report alleged mail, wire, bank or securities fraud; violations of the SEC rules and regulations; or violation of federal laws related to fraud against shareholders. The Act covers employees of publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries, as well as employees of nationally-recognized statistical rating organizations
- Seaman’s Protection Act: Protects employees who report to the Coast Guard or another federal agency a violation of a maritime safety law or regulation, and also seamen who refuse to work when they reasonably believe an assigned task would result in serious injury or impairment of health to themselves, other seamen, or the public
- Solid Waste Disposal Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to the disposal of solid and hazardous waste (including medical waste) at active and future facilities
- Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act: Protects truck drivers and other employees who refuse to violate regulations related to the safety of commercial motor vehicles or who report violations of those regulations
- Toxic Substances Control Act: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violations relating to industrial chemicals produced or imported into the United States
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century: Protects employees of air carriers and contractors and subcontractors of air carriers who, among other things, report violations of laws related to aviation safety